Technology in Elementary School

Parent Q&A

Tech-free elementary schools Sep 12, 2019 (4 responses below)
Low/No Tech Schools/Districts in the East Bay Feb 27, 2019 (4 responses below)
Use of technology and screentime at EBI Dec 11, 2018 (4 responses below)
Technology in BUSD Kindergarten classrooms? Jan 11, 2018 (3 responses below)
  • Tech-free elementary schools

    (4 replies)

    We are relocating to the Berkeley/ Oakland area and are looking for technology free elemetary schools.  We have taken tours of both Waldorf schools and are wondering if there are additional schools that offer this kind of screen-free environment.  We are also curious how much screen time kids are getting in the Berkeley and Oakland public schools.  Our son will be entering the 1st grade; where we have been living, the disctrict considers itself "tech forward" and thus, from kindergarten on, technology is integrated (youtube, g suite, iready, star fall, etc).  We currently homeschool and are trying to get away from this model in the event we opt to send him into the classroon environment.  Any suggestion/ info is appreciated! 

    Check out Walden in Berkeley. It’s not entirely tech-free but most of the learning is hands-on and there is a big emphasis on integrating creative arts with the academic program. Our kids loved it there:)

    I think you will be hard-pressed to find a public elementary school anywhere in Berkeley/Oakland that is completely tech-free. State standardized testing, which begins in grade 3, is now administered on computers, so the kids have to be prepared for that. And there's also an awareness that some kids will not receive any kind of digital education at home, so they need to be introduced to computers at school in order to access all the resources their more affluent peers can. With all that said... my kids are at Chabot Elementary in Oakland, and a year(ish) ago, we surveyed classroom teachers in grades 2-5 on how many hours per week computers were in use in their classrooms. (We have zero computer use in kindergarten and very limited use in some grade 1 classrooms.) The very highest users averaged around 5-7 hours per week, and the lowest were down around 2 hours per week. The average was in the 3-5 hours per week range. In almost all cases, the teachers did not have access to a full set of computers (i.e., one computer per child), and classroom practices at our school often involve dividing the class into small groups. So one group is working on chromebooks while another group is working directly with the teacher while a third group is doing a paper-and-pencil activity. So... even if the classroom averaged 5 hours a week of computer use, that rarely (maybe never?) translates to an individual child staring at a screen for 5 hours a week.

    This is an area that has been subject to quite a bit of change (and quite a bit of evaluation) over the past few years at our school, and I would guess that's true at other area schools as well.

    When I was looking for a school for my son, I too had concerns about the use of technology in place of hands-on exploration and learning.
    I ultimately enrolled my son in Crestmont School, where he currently attends Kindergarten. It's a small co-op K-8 school located in the Richmond Hills community with active parent involvement. I was drawn to the school, in large part, by the school's philosophy of educating the "whole child" and the active approach to learning. Good luck!

  • Are there any public schools or districts in the East Bay that are intentionally low/no tech for elementary school? I work in education and have seen the heavy handed push of EdTech products that have zero impact for students other than some additional mindless screen time. I'm not against all technology (my M.S.Ed is in Online Teaching and Learning) but the real benefits come from older students using technology tools to create, not from plugging young kids into screens and calling it personalized learning. WCCUSD is testing a new curriculum at the elementary level that has the very youngest students doing homework online. I am 100% not okay with this for my kids, and it may actually push us to move schools. We would prefer to avoid private schools and charter schools, are there any public schools/districts you can point us to? Thank you.

    Because California state tests are given online now, I don't think you will find any districts that do not use technology at all in elementary. Particularly in districts grappling with digital divide issues, the push is generally in the other direction. Most use Chromebooks or other similar devices starting by second grade at the latest (and many start as early as TK/K, as you've found). In my experience, there are individual teachers who use less tech, but you can't be assured of getting that particular teacher. Maybe someone will weigh in with suggestions of schools where there are concentrations of teachers who are opting out of the technology, though.

    Agreed that because testing is now online, there will be almost zero public schools that use no technology in elementary schools. However, I think Berkeley schools (at least the school our kids go to -- Sylvia Mendez) has struck a nice balance. Kinders and 1st graders do not use computers unless they are accessing reading resources such as RAZ kids from home. In second grade, my son uses the computer during class time once a week to learn coding or typing and that's pretty much it. In third grade, kids get access to Google docs to start writing papers, but do not use email. They don't get district email access until middle school. My daughter is in fourth grade and they continue to use Google docs and the Chromebooks, and definitely on a more regular basis. I assume 5th grade is the same. However, as you say, it is for creating, not "curriculum" delivered via devices. I also have an M.A in Instruction Technology and am comfortable with the technology use in this school. Good luck on this decision!

    I don't have any advice for you but am in the same boat as you. I understand that we need to allow all our kids computer literacy but I don't believe elementary schoolers need to be on computers. In fact there's a growing body of research that shows it can be harmful. I know you said no private but check out Waldorf or at least a Waldorf charter school (there's one in Oakland). True Waldorf would not introduce tech until middle at the earliest. We're looking at these or homeschool for this reason (ideally Waldorf charter). 

  • Use of technology and screentime at EBI

    (4 replies)

    I participated in a tour of EBI in Oakland and was mostly impressed with what I saw, but I'm wondering about their technology use policies. It was briefly covered during the tour, but I felt like the topic was glossed over. My partner and I believe very strongly that screen time is harmful, and at a young age they don't need to stare, swipe, and tap at screens. Our child has never seen us watch TV, and believes the iphone and ipad are how we chat with grandma and grandpa who live far away, that's it. 

    Can any current parent explain to me how it really is in the classrooms when it comes to ipads and screens? Is it used everyday for 30 minutes, every week for an hour, for special events only... ???  Our child would be heading into one of the pre-kinder classes (yellow or blue/green, I think). 

    Thank you.

    My child is in pre-k at EBI. He has zero screen time. He has been there for two years. He also does not know what the television (which resides in the basement) does. 

    My daughter is in second grade. In kindergarten she used an iPad for a math or reading center- that means she had about 5 minutes of screen time a few days a week.  The screen time is used with a purpose. In first grade she used an iPad for a special project and reseched weather patterns in a city of her choice. 

    I encourage you to send a quick email to the admissions director and she can give you detailed answers. The director of pk-1st can also explain to you and and why screens are used for kinder and first grade. 

    Happy parent 

    Our son is in kindergarten at EBI and it sounds like (from his reports) they use iPads about once a week (probably for about 1/2 hour). He was in preschool there for one year and they didn’t use iPads at all in preschool. We are very happy with school, BTW. Great teachers, curriculum and community! 

    Hola! We have been at EBI for a few years and been happy with their technology policy for my two kids. In Pre-K iPad use was extremely limited with teachers using them to share videos to closely support something in the lesson. In Kindergarten, I recall that the kids using technology (again, limited) to help with reading and writing. We have been really happy with EBI and my heart sings when I can hear my kids speaking Spanish. Hope this helps your decision …  Signed…. Conservative Mom

  • Technology in BUSD Kindergarten classrooms?

    (3 replies)

    Hi bpn! Can anyone tell me about technology use in Berkeley Public elementary schools? (Specifically, Kindergartens in the Central zone.) 

    i.e., Do teachers use screens in the classrooms? For what? Do kids take tests on computers? (My niece in another state does, and I've realized I don't have any idea what happens here.) Anything else noteworthy?


    This is going to vary greatly by teacher and you have no control over which teacher you get or the ability to switch teachers (at least in my experience). Our daughter's teacher starts the day with 10-20 minutes of YouTube videos for various songs (e.g. welcome song, ABCs, counting, days of the week etc). Many teachers also use Go Noodle at some point in the day. I know another K teacher at the school uses iPads in the classroom for some Math work. This teacher also has shown movies for special occasions (e.g. Frosty the Snowman before winter break). As far as I can tell, they aren't using computers for testing.  

    Our son is at Washington kinder and quite happy there. No screen time as far as I know. I think that might start in small doses by 3rd grade.  There are some folks in the PTA there who are trying to stave off technology in general that you can hook up with.


    It's worth noting that all students in California take state SBAC tests on computers beginning in third grade, so most schools do introduce technology well before then, and often as early as kindergarten. I can't speak to the specific Berkeley schools in the Central zone, but would be surprised not to see fairly regular technology use (iPads or Chromebooks) by second grade, if not before then.